My daughter loves to give gifts. Almost weekly she comes home with something to give to me. “I made this for you, Mommy,” she’ll say grinning and looking endearingly at me with her big brown eyes. Last year, she wrapped a Christmas gift for me and couldn’t wait for me to open it. In fact, she was so eager, she made me open it two weeks early! I was happy to oblige for the sheer joy of watching her light up. But as much as she enjoys giving gifts, I’d dare say that receiving a gift is pure exhilaration for her. She can’t believe we’d think of her. She won’t stop talking about the gift…at least for the day (she is a kid and kids tend to move on to the next thing). The point is, she receives gifts with open hands, humbly, with excitement and joy, with thanksgiving, and never once does she ask if she needs to repay you or earn what she’s been given. I wouldn’t go so far to say she doesn’t believe she deserves the gift, but she does know how to receive it.
As Jesus is teaching in Mark 10, the listeners began to bring children to him so that he might pray for them (10:13). His disciples, however, found this to be a nuisance and rebuked them. As Jesus witnessed the disciples’ behavior towards the children, He was indignant (10:14). He was righteously angry and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs to the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (10:15-16). How do children receive a gift? They receive it like my daughter. And that is what Jesus desires for us.
When I think about my own conversion, I think I was like my daughter in the way she receives various gifts from her mother and father. I was humbled, excited, thankful, and joyful. I couldn’t believe that I could have access to the Great I Am, that I’d be forgiven for all of the sin I have ever and would ever commit, and that Jesus would pay the price for it all. But then, as I’ve gotten older in the faith, I can sense some of the awe of this free gift and access to the kingdom waning. As I gain knowledge, I can sense a fight to remember the beautiful basics of my faith.
I imagine I’m not alone. Faith is a gift from God—we could never earn God’s favor and we could never sustain his favor through our good deeds. We need to heed Jesus’ words and ask him to make us like little children, receiving the free gift of faith with thanksgiving and exuberance. We don’t want to become so familiar with the gospel that we forget to be like children. Rather, let’s return each day remembering that God is our Father and he loves to pour out gifts to his children. All you and I must do is receive.
a version of this first appeared in Tabletalk Magazine